Haforsa Ligasaun ba Igualidade, Resiliensia, Adaptasaun no Sustentabilidade ba BESI (HALIRAS BESI)


Water for Women partners with WaterAid and partners to deliver HALIRAS BESI — Strengthening connections for equality, resilience, adaptation and sustainability of WASH in Timor-Leste, to directly benefit an estimated 18,615* people. 


Timor-Leste faces high disaster risk levels, ranked 66 out of 191 countries by the 2019 Inform Risk Index.[1] The monsoonal wet-dry tropical climate of Timor-Leste is impacted by climate change through the intensification of the dry and wet seasons.


Climate change is already impacting rural water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in Timor-Leste through extreme weather events and disasters. The severe flash flood events across the country in 2020 and 2021 were linked to La Niña, the strength of which has been connected to climate change. In 2021, extreme rain events triggered devastating flash flooding, landslides, inundation and strong winds, causing significant damage to water supply and sanitation infrastructure in Dili and the rest of the country. Thirteen municipalities and 33,835 households were affected, more than 4,200 houses were destroyed and 44 people lost their lives.[2]


Climate change has also already affected most rural communities dependent on the rainy season for agriculture, particularly those who still practice traditional slash and burn farming techniques, which lead to increased erosion and landslides, with high deforestation rates. Around 70%[3] of Timorese families rely on some form of farming for their livelihoods.


Across the country, health standards are currently very low, with respiratory and diarrhoeal diseases mainly attributable to unsafe water sources, poor sanitation and hygiene.[4] Prolonged droughts have decreased groundwater recharge, impacting the quality and quantity of water supplies of rural communities. In Timor-Leste’s coastal zones, rising sea levels increasingly place freshwater sources at risk of saline intrusion, impacting the quality and quantity of coastal community water supplies. Under all emissions pathways, Timor-Leste is projected to experience an increase in the frequency of extreme high temperatures,[5] which will put further pressure on the country’s freshwater sources.


It is well documented that climate change hazards disproportionately impact the poorest and most marginalised in society, including women, girls, people with disabilities and minority groups, exacerbating existing inequalities in access to and the quality of water and WASH. Timor-Leste has the highest multidimensional poverty rate (46%)[6] in South East Asia and ranks 131 out of 189 on the Human Development Index. Approximately 3.2% of Timorese people have a disability,[7] yet they are overrepresented in the lowest two wealth quintiles, highlighting the link between poverty and disability.[8] The voices and needs of women, girls and people with disabilities continue to be deprioritised in decision-making and service delivery.[9]


A community water point in rural Timor-Leste, with a lush environment in the background, three people are collecting water with plastic flasks

Frederico, the chief of a village where a gravity-fed system has been installed, collects water from one of the many taps spread throughout the village. Previously, the trip to collect water from the river took 1.5 hours (WaterAid/Tariq Hawari)


Climate-related risks to water, sanitation and hygiene

Latest data available suggest a quarter of households in Timor-Leste do not have access to safe drinking water.[10] In rural areas, almost 20% of the population lacks access to a basic water service and over 50% lacks access to basic sanitation.[11] Climate-related events exacerbate inequities in access to safe water and poor sanitation intensifies the impacts of these events on communities, causing contamination of water sources and the spread of water-borne diseases.

In Timor-Leste, lack of adequate resourcing and governance processes mean municipal WASH staff have limited capacity to fulfil their mandates to deliver and maintain rural WASH services. However, an increase in public budget allocations for WASH in the national budget from 0.7% in 2021 to 1.8% in 2022[12] and establishment of Timor-Leste's first National Water Authority and National Water Utility signal support for improvements.

Extreme climate-change-induced weather events that impact the WASH sector are clear. However, there are more subtle, incremental impacts that may go unnoticed and unreported, due to a lack of systematic monitoring programs on water resource, water supply and sanitation infrastructure.

“The Water for Women program has made significant progress that aligns with [Timor-Leste] government plans. The program advocates to community, who receive the information, and now talk more about water, sanitation and hygiene. This shows [WaterAid’s] efforts have led to greater community awareness, especially of hygiene, and resulted in significant change.”

Gustavo da Cruz, BTL Vice President

In the project districts of Manufahi and Liquiçá, communities face varying and distinct climate-related and WASH challenges. Manufahi, located in the central part of Timor-Leste, encompasses a mountainous region with several high summits and stretches south taking in long coastal areas that border the Timor Sea. Liquiçá, located on the opposite northern coast of the country, is bounded to the north and west by the Savu Sea and includes 82km of coastline and 25 river basins of varying sizes, many of which dry up in the summer.

In these two project districts, WaterAid is best placed to leverage the experience and relationships developed during the initial phase of the Fund to consolidate, further trial and progress climate-resilient and inclusive WASH for rural communities and develop scalable approaches for wider use across Timor-Leste.


A map of Timor-Leste with regions of operation


HALIRAS BESI aims to strengthen collaborative, climate-resilient and inclusive approaches to address the challenges of climate change on WASH and improve the operation and maintenance of rural WASH services in Manufahi and Liquiçá.

Building on WaterAid’s Water for Women project, Beyond Inclusion: Realising gender transformational change and sustainable WASH systems, completed in 2022, the HALIRAS BESI project is leveraging experience utilising sector strengthening tools and approaches and relationships developed at municipal and national levels — notably, with the National Authority for Water and Sanitation (ANAS), the Partnership to Strengthen Village Development and Municipal Administration (PARTISIPA), public utility company Bee Timor-Leste (BTL) — municipal administrations and cross-sectoral departments, water user groups (GMFs), local civil society organisations (CSO) and rights groups.


From 2023-2024 this project aims to deliver lasting impact through:

  • Improved operation and maintenance of rural WASH services in Manufahi and Liquiçá with greater emphasis on climate resilience, behaviour change and gender equality, disability and social inclusion (GEDSI)
  • Development of a scalable model for climate-resilient and inclusive WASH in rural communities for WASH sector actors across Timor-Leste
  • Establishment of a national WASH management information system, GEDSI-focused knowledge and tools for improved planning, monitoring and accountability mechanisms for resilient and inclusive WASH services beyond Manufahi and Liquiçá.



"The Water for Women project is very important because it ensures equality and inclusion in accessing good and secure WASH for families and society. This is needed to ensure a healthy and harmonious life.”

Esmenia Laura, Director of Grupu Feto Foinsae Timor-Leste and President of PN-BESITL, the National Platform for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

A mother and child make use of a community tap with safe water by wahsing hands and their laundry

A mother and daughter make good use of this community tap point installed by WaterAid. View more photo updates from Timor-Leste

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This project is an extension of Beyond Inclusion: Realising gender transformational change and sustainable WASH systems, which was delivered from 2018-2022.

Learn more


WASH-related climate challenges for this project

  • There is currently no formal guidance to water supply planners on how to incorporate GEDSI approaches to ensure inclusive WASH is integrated within climate change adaptation actions; understanding of the way in which harmful social norms underpin experiences of climate change is crucial in any adaptation and mitigation efforts.
  • Municipal and national governments do not have sufficient data about WASH services or needs to make evidence-based decisions about service delivery, planning or budgeting.
  • Rural communities still have responsibility for managing WASH services under national policy, which is done through GMFs. Coordination across aldeia (hamlet), suco (village) and municipality levels is a significant challenge; most municipalities do not have processes for gathering feedback from service users.
  • Rural communities average around 150 people and are often isolated. Many rural households contribute minimally or not at all to water supply sustainability through operation and maintenance. Research indicates that low functionality and understanding of the GMF is associated with community participation in water supply management.
  • Under-representation of women in WASH leadership positions, with only 21 of 442 suco chiefs being women, limits the voice and agency of women in decision-making, despite still being primarily responsible for meeting household and community WASH needs.
  • Mechanisms for financing and monitoring the operation and maintenance of existing and new rural water supply systems are currently inadequate.


A community feedback workshop (UTS-ISF) Building climate resilience through inclusive WASH interventions for all. Between 2018 and 2021, ISF-UTS, WaterAid Timor-Leste, WaterAid Australia, Plan International Indonesia and Plan International Australia partnered on the Climate Change Response for Inclusive WASH (CCRIW) research project. The project aimed to co-develop participatory, community-based activities that support women, men and people with disabilities to discuss how climate hazards affect rural water (in Timor-Leste) and rural sanitation (in Indonesia), and how local resources can be mobilised to respond to impacts.



HALIRAS BESI aims to reach the following beneficiaries by the end of 2024:

Direct beneficiaries: 18,615*

  • women and girls: 9,121
  • men and boys: 9,494
  • people with a disability: 300

Indirect beneficiaries: 31,141*


Water for Women logo
WaterAid Logo
Asosiasaun HAK logo
FLBF (Fundusaun Luta ba Futuru) logo
GFFTL (Grupu Feto Foinsae Timor-Leste) Logo
FHTL (Fundasaun Hafoun Timor Lorosae) logo

Australia's development assistance program is investing in Timor-Leste to achieve these outcomes. Water for Women is proud to be partnering with WaterAid and partners in Manufahi and Liquiçá, including FHTL (Fundasaun Hafoun Timor Lorosae), FLBF (Fundusaun Luta ba Futuru), GFFTL (Grupu Feto Foinsae Timor-Leste), RHTO (Ra’es Hadomi Timor Oan), Asosiasaun HAK, PERMATIL.

Feature photo: Francisca is a leader of the local Water User Group. Since the water system was installed in her village, she has been able to grow and earn an income from her garden (WaterAid/Tariq Hawari)

*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress.



[1] Asian Development Bank, Climate Risk Country Profile: Timor-Leste, World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank, 2021.

[2] United Nations in Timor, Timor Leste Floods: UN Situation Report No. 9 (As of 21 May 2021), UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, 21 May 2021.

[3] Asian Development Bank, Climate Risk Country Profile: Timor-Leste.

[4] Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Timor-Leste National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) on Climate Change, Ministry for Economy and Development, Secretary of State for Environment, December 2010.

[5] Asian Development Bank, Climate Risk Country Profile: Timor-Leste.

[7] Government of Timor-Leste, Timor-Leste's National Census of Population and Housing 2015, Government of Timor-Leste (website), July 2015. 

[9] Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Timor-Leste PARTISIPA 2021-2031 Design Document, DFAT, December 2020.

[10] DFAT, Timor-Leste PARTISIPA 2021-2031 Design Document.

[11] UNICEF and World Health Organisation, WASH Data – Timor-Leste, UNICEF/WHO JMP 2022 (website), accessed May 2023. 

[12] Timor-Leste Ministry of Finance, State Budget 2022 Approved Budget Overview, Government of Timor-Leste, 1 December 2021.

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